By Tim Mead

Chapter 2

"Dude, you look different!"

Dan and Casey started with a fist bump that wound up as a hug.

"Yeah?"  Casey held Dan at arm's length and studied his face.  "Man, you do, too.  I hope you made him pay for all that damage."

Dan chuckled.  "Actually, it was three guys.  And wasn't your hair blond?"

"Yeah.  I stopped bleaching it when I gave up fighting."


After the big decision was made, Dan had quit his job at Kroger's.  He'd had an emotional farewell with Cheryl.  

"If you don't email me, I'll come up there and make you sorry, kiddo."

"I promise I'll stay in touch, okay?"

He'd moved back in with his parents, though he managed to be out most of the time when they were home.  His high school friends had all gone on to college or the military, so he had no one to hang out with.  He spent a lot of time working out and taking long walks.  The movies, too, enabled him to be out of the house.  It wasn't as if there was any hostility at the Cole household.  But there was a distinct awkwardness whenever he was around either parent, especially his mother.  She never actually said, "I told you so," but she managed to convey the thought repeatedly.  Or so it seemed to Dan.

He applied to and was accepted at Colby State University.  Despite the fact that his folks were among the school's most loyal and ardent alumni, he'd never visited the campus.

He was informed that, because of his age and "life experience" he was exempt from the University's requirement that all first-year students live in one of the dormitories.  And included with that letter was a list of people who rented apartments or rooms to students.  It was several pages long.  There was a disclaimer at the bottom which said the University made no promises that these individuals actually had living accommodations available at any given time.

Although he was faced with the problem of finding a place to live, he thought he might have an ace in the hole.  One of his first fights had been against a guy from Cleveland named Casey Shaw, who had given Dan his first loss.  But afterward Casey had invited Dan to go for a beer with him.  Dan went along, though he had to have a cola because he wasn't old enough to have a beer.  He'd grumbled that he was a professional MMA fighter but couldn't buy a beer in Ohio.

But he liked Casey.  They were the same height and weight, 5'9", 155 lbs.  Whereas Dan had dirty blond hair and blue eyes, he remembered Casey having hair so light it was almost platinum and striking dark brown eyes.  They'd gotten along so well they'd exchanged email addresses when their evening was over.  And they'd kept in touch.  Dan knew that Casey had given up fighting a while back and was now a student at Colby State.

So he emailed Casey.

That evening a year and a half earlier when Casey and Dan had been having their own after party, Casey had asked if Dan had a fighting nickname.

"You know, like Brandon `The Truth' Vera or Mike `Quick' Swick."

"No, never thought of it."

Casey had grinned and Dan's pulse speeded up perceptibly.  "How about `Cool'?  Dan `Cool' Cole?"

"'Cool' doesn't sound very scary," Dan had replied, and the conversation had turned to other things.

But Casey had always called him "Cool" in his emails.  So Dan wasn't surprised when his friend responded:

Cool, Cool!  So you're coming to Colby.  Why don't you get your ass up here so we can find you a place to live?  Problem is, I've got summer classes.  Could you come on a weekend?  If you come Saturday you can crash with me and go back to Cincinnati the next day.

In fact, I've got an idea I wanna try out on ya.

Just about any weekend will do, but the sooner the better.  Let me know, huh?


One of the things he and Casey had not talked about in the bar that evening was sexual orientation.  He'd suspected Casey was gay, but he hadn't known how to bring up the topic.  And he didn't want to alienate the guy if he was straight.

Whatever.  Even though Casey had bested him in their match, he'd liked him, and their exchange of emails had been casual, friendly, comfortable.  So he emailed back and said he'd drive to Colby that weekend.

Saturday morning came and he left for Colby.  His mother wasn't up yet when he breakfasted, but his father came downstairs and gave him a hug.  

"Do you have your VISA card?"

"Yes, Dad."

"What about your check book?  You'll probably need that to pay your rent deposit and first month's rent."

"Got it."

"What about cash?  Do you have enough for this weekend?"

"Yeah, Dad, I think so."

They hugged.  

"Dad . . .  thanks."

"Drive carefully, Danny.  See you sometime Sunday, right?"


As he drove north on 75, Dan suspected he should be more excited.  He was about to leave Cincinnati, making a new start.  But he'd left his parents' house in Loveland two years earlier, had supposedly made a new start when he began his MMA training.  And look where that had gotten him.

This was a second chance, his father had suggested, and he should make the most of it.  But he'd never been much interested in his classes.  He'd been able to get B's in most of them without doing a lot of studying.  He'd dated, partly for cover, partly to figure out whether he was really gay or just going through an adolescent phase.  He'd gone to ball games, dances, parties.  Smoked a little weed, though he was serious enough about his conditioning not to do that often.  And he hadn't had a whiff of the stuff since he'd started at Tom's academy.

So here he was.  Again, according to his father, facing a world of possibilities.  But he couldn't imagine what they were.  Except that he was sure he wasn't going to hide who he was.  Even if it meant alienating Casey, he was going to find out how to hook up with the gay community at Colby.  He'd heard that Colby was the most open of the many state universities in Ohio so far as the LGBT crowd was concerned.

He found himself daydreaming about studly college guys, but the heavy traffic forced him to concentrate on his driving.  


They were having lunch at Ruby Tuesday's.  

Casey had chosen the salad bar.  "Gotta be careful about too many greasy burgers and fries."

Dan, feeling liberated from the regimen he'd followed while in training, felt a little guilty for ordering a burger and fries.

"So, the blond hair was just a thing while you were fighting?" he asked, to change the subject.

"Yeah.  It was something one of the other guys I trained with suggested.  I always thought the almost-white hair looked weird with my brown eyes."

"At least you didn't color it green or blue or purple."

"Maybe you had to be a better fighter than I was to get away with that."

"Seems to me like you were pretty good."

"Nah, man.  I was just lucky to get you when you were a newbie.  I could see you had a lot of promise."

"Right.  Look how long my career lasted."

"Well, maybe we both outgrew that shit."

"If I'd had Randy Couture's abilities, I might have stayed with it into my 40's."

Casey rested his forearms on the table, fork still in hand.  "Do you really think you would have liked that life for another twenty years?"

Dan wondered if Frank would have kept on fucking him all that time.  Not if I was as good as Couture!  He shook his head.

"Well, I'm here and all that's behind me.  Right now, I've gotta find a place to live."

"That might not be a problem."

"What do you mean, Case?"

Casey put down his fork, took a swallow of water, and leaned back on the banquette.  "I've just rented a two-bedroom apartment.  I've had it with dorm life!  Do you know I had my fuckin' laptop stolen out of my room earlier this summer?  And the dorm's noisy.  I've got two years' worth of credits from Tri-C, but I lived with my grandmother.  It just never occurred to me a dorm would be such a zoo.  Compared to the guys I trained with, the guys in the dorm are just animals."

"That surprises you?  Didn't you ever watch the `Ultimate Fighter' on TV?"

"Sure I did.  But . . . .  Well, I don't know.  I just thought college guys would be more considerate, more civilized."

"So, you have an apartment.  What's it like?"

Casey grinned.  "How'd you like to see it?"

Dan finished his cola.  "Sounds good.  Whenever you're ready."

The apartment was on a shady street in an older residential section of Colby, about ten minutes from campus by car.  The converted ground floor of a big old house, it had a lot of space.  With two large bedrooms, a living room, a recently updated bathroom and eat-in kitchen, it looked great to Dan.  The furniture was old but clean.

"This looks great, Casey.  You're lucky.  But I don't imagine I could afford a place like this.  Does your landlord have any one-bedroom apartments?"

"Dude, I can't afford this place either unless I find a roommate, someone to share the rent.  That's why I brought you here."

"You're asking me to be your roomie?"

"Well, there'd be some conditions."

"Such as?"

"You'd pay half of the rent and utilities."


"I'm gonna be bussing tables four times a week, so you'd have the place to yourself those evenings.  But the landlord said we'd be kicked out if we had wild parties.  Some guy who's on the faculty lives upstairs."
Dan grinned.  "That shouldn't be a problem."

"I'm also kind of a neat freak.  I couldn't live with a slob."

"I'm kind of that way, too."

"If you've got a guy in your room, keep the door shut, and I won't bother you.  And I'll expect the same consideration."

"Okay. . . .  Wait a minute!  A guy?  You think I'm gay?"

"Come off it, man.  Are you telling me you're not?"

"How'd you know?"

"I dunno.  I just knew.  I knew that evening we went out after our fight."

"You never said anything."

"Sorry.  I just assumed we'd recognized that about each other."

Dan took a deep breath and blew it out.  This was big.  Ever since Casey had suggested they share the apartment, he'd been thinking he owed it to his new roomie to tell him the truth.  How great it would be to have a guy who not only knew the ropes around Colby but who wouldn't be hung up over his being gay!

"I, um, I think it would be great to share this with you.  Are you sure you want to?"

Casey grinned, his dark eyes sparkling.  "Well, I took you down once.  I figure if you get out of line I can do it again.  And let's agree that if either of us is unhappy at the end of the fall term, you'll move out."

"Well, it is your place."

Casey put a fraternal arm around Dan's shoulder and said, "Let's say it's our place and see how that works out."


"You're Cool and I'm Case."

They spent the rest of the afternoon on a walking tour of the campus.  Casey showed Dan the classroom buildings, the bookstore, the Student Union, the sports complex, and the downtown area.  He pointed out Adrian's, the restaurant where he'd be working.

"Looks like an upscale kind of place."

"It is.  The wait staff wear tuxes in the evenings, though not for lunch.  And I'll have to wear black pants, a long-sleeve white shirt, black shoes and socks, and a black bow tie."

"How'd you get the job?"

"The head chef is a friend of mine."


"Uh huh.  I'll introduce you to Albert sometime.  And you'll probably meet Adrian, too.  He's the owner.  They're both family."

"Family?  Oh, you mean they're gay?"


"Are they a couple?"

"No, Albert is alone, poor guy.  Word is he had a lover, a former police detective who's now a prof at CSU, but they broke up.  Dunno why.  He's been really good to me.  And Adrian has a partner.  They live in the most expensive condo building in town.  Each guy has his own place, but they're lovers."

"Are there lots of gay guys in Colby?"

"This is a pretty gay-friendly place.  There's a Gay Alliance on campus, and there's a group of mostly older guys who get together several times a year.  They refer to themselves as the `Colby Queers.'"

"Wow!  But what about guys our age?"

"I know some of them, too.  What would you say to pizza and a salad back at the apartment?"

"I was going to offer to take you to supper someplace."

"I'll take a rain check.  You like baseball?  As in amateur baseball?"

"Sure, I guess."


After they ate, Casey took Dan to a baseball field in a city park.  He explained that the area had an amateur summer baseball league, and that the Colby team was playing the team from nearby Higgins, and it was the last game of the season for both teams.

"Normally they don't play on Saturday nights, but since it's the end of the season, it's kind of a bigger deal.  Lots of friends and family turn out."

"You aren't on the Colby team, are you?"

"No.  But I may see if they've got a spot for me next summer."

When they got to the park, they snagged a couple of spots on the top row of the third-baseline bleachers.  By the time play began, nearly all the seats were taken.

As the home team took the field, Dan said, "Some of those guys are pretty hot.  Do you know any of them?"

"I know who some of them are.  But I do know some of the guys on the Higgins team."

When the first Higgins player came up to bat, Casey said, "That's Justin Quinn.  He's a student at State.  His partner's Bailey Stone, who bats next."

Later he pointed out Dave Cromer, who owned the county's biggest landscaping business.  "And batting cleanup is Brody Cox.  He's Dave's partner.  Was in the Marines.  In Iraq or Afghanistan. He's studying landscape architecture or something like that and helping Dave out with the business when he has time."

"Jesus!  They're both hunks!"

Casey chuckled.  "Better keep your voice down."  Then he leaned closer to Dan and said, softly, "There's a lot of them around.  You see that bunch of guys sitting together over there?"  He nodded toward the bleachers along the first baseline.

"Uh huh.  The ones who all seem to know each other."


"See the big one with the black hair?"

"Where . . . ?  Oh, yeah, sitting next to the smaller guy."

"Well the big one is Joe Hill.  He works for Dave Cromer."

"Ohmygod!  He's gorgeous.  I suppose he's got a partner."

"Yep.  The smaller guy next to him is Micah something or other.  Sutton, I think.  He makes furniture, or so I hear.  And they're partners."

Their attention was distracted as Brody got a triple, bringing in Justin, who'd walked earlier.  The next man up kept the pitcher busy for a while but finally fouled out.  

As the home team prepared to bat, Casey nodded back at the group across the way.  

"See the black guys?"

"Uh huh."

"Well, the one with the dreads is a music prof here.  The big guy next to him is a lawyer who lives here and works in Toledo.  Last time I saw him he had dreads, too.  Now he's shaved his head."

"He looks awesome.  And who's the younger guy?"

Sitting with them was a man who appeared to be in his mid-twenties.  Slightly shorter than his companions, he had lighter skin, a golden coffee color compared to their mahogany.  He wore his hair in a close clip.

"I sure wouldn't kick him out of bed."

"Yeah, he's a hunk, but I've never seen him before.  The two guys sitting in front of them are also profs at the U.  The one with glasses teaches history, and the other one's the former chief of police.  He teaches criminal justice now.  All those guys go to the group I was telling you about."

"What do they do when they're together?"

"I think they get dressed up and drink and eat fancy nibbles and talk."

"Sounds kinda boring."


The game, which the Higgins team won 6-5, finished just after 9:00.  Many of the spectators went to the team benches to talk with the players.  

"You legal yet?" Casey asked as the two young men walked away from the ball field.


"Then I can introduce you to Colby's fabulous gay night life."

"Say what?"

Casey grinned.  "We're going to Nellie's."

"Who's Nellie?"

"It's not a person.  It's Colby County's only gay bar."

"Oh.  I've never been to one of those before."

"There's one I used to go to in the Flats in Cleveland called the Phoenix.  Nellie's is a little more conservative, but it's . . . well, you can judge for yourself."

"Great."  Dan thought this might be a good way to get to know gay guys.  He'd resolved that he would be out and open at college, and Nellie's might be the first step in doing so.
He hadn't had much experience in bars.  In high school he was too young and the wrestling coach had been adamant about his guys not drinking, not just because they were all under age but for health and conditioning reasons.  After high school he'd been too busy, since he trained evenings and weekends.  Some of the other fighters at the Academy, he knew, tended to congregate at bars on Saturday nights, but he'd only recently turned 21.  He tagged along sometimes, but he soon discovered it was no fun sitting there sipping a Coke while his friends were drinking beer and growing  increasingly boisterous.  

Still, Nellie's didn't look much different from the few bars he'd been in.  It had a bar, tables, booths, a couple of pool tables in the back, a dart board in the same general vicinity, and a small area for dancing.

The main difference was that, though there were men and women, he didn't see any mixed couples.

It figures, he thought.

Casey wanted draft beer.  Dan's parents had allowed him to have a glass of wine with dinner since he was thirteen, and he'd come to enjoy that.  He had yet to acquire a taste for beer.  Still, he thought asking for wine might look a bit girly, so he asked for the same thing Casey ordered.

"Why don't we just get a pitcher?" Casey asked.

"Okay.  It's good we're walking back to your place.  I'm liable to get smashed.  And what about you?  I thought you were pretty careful about your training."

"Fuck, Cool.  A guy can ease up on himself once in a while, can't he?  I've got to work on a paper tomorrow.  But tonight it's good to have you here.  So let's just relax, enjoy the suds, and get to know each other."

"Sounds good."

So they talked about their homes, families, high school, being gay in high school, wrestling in high school, being MMA fighters.  They obviously had a lot in common.

But, it appeared, Casey had had a rougher time of it.  His parents had rejected him after he'd come out to them.  He'd gotten some help from his grandmother since that time, but he'd had to do most of it on his own.  He was at Colby with an academic scholarship, which confirmed Dan's impression that Casey was pretty smart.  And he had had to take the job busing tables to help with his expenses.  He was, Dan decided, quite a guy.  Good-natured, fun to be around.  And really decent.  Dan had liked Casey since that night after their fight when Casey had asked him out for a drink.  The prospect of sharing the apartment with him seemed to bode well for his first year in college.

The conversation had come back to fighting.  I guess, Dan thought, it's like when Mom and Dad talk about music with their friends.  They were talking about whether Faber would regain his title from Brown in their rematch.  

Dan hadn't seen the guy approach, so he was startled when someone standing next to them said, "Shaw, I didn't know you had a brother."

Dan noticed Casey's scowl and glanced up to see a guy with light brown hair and very blue eyes looking down at them.  An inch or so taller than Dan and Casey and on the thin side, he wore a yellow polo with the Nautica sailboat logo embroidered over the left pec, carefully pressed Dockers, and loafers without socks.

Casey sighed, rolled his eyes at Dan, and said, "This isn't my brother.  This is Dan Cole, my new roommate.  Dan, this is Bernie Caldwell, Colby State's unofficial welcoming committee of one for gay men."

Bernie chuckled and shook hands with Dan, who slid over so Bernie could sit down.

"I only welcome the cute ones.  So consider yourself welcome, Daniel."

"Call me Dan if you want."

"No way.  You look like you should be Daniel, and that's what I'm going to call you.  But are you sure you guys aren't related?  You could pass for brothers."

"Pure coincidence," Casey said.

"Do you guys have a double at the dorm?"

"No, I found an apartment, and my bud here is sharing it with me."

"How did you come to know each other?"

Dan chuckled.  "He submitted me with a rear naked choke."

Bernie lowered his eyelids and said, "Oooh, sounds sexy.  Is that something out of the Kama Sutra?"

"I don't know what that is, but a rear naked choke is a submission hold in mixed martial arts."

"Oh, yeah.  I knew Casey had been into that ruffianly stuff.  You, too, huh, Daniel?"

"Yep.  I just hung up my gloves a couple of weeks ago."


"For one thing, I wasn't good enough.  For another, look at me.  You can't miss the scar."

"Yeah, it's not a sport for wusses," Casey said.  "In addition to this," he added, gesturing toward his fat ear, "I've had a broken collar bone and some other shit.  Cool and I both decided to get out before we got seriously hurt."

"Sounds smart," Bernie said.  "But, Daniel, I think your scar's sexy.  Like you had been in a duel with sabers at dawn in Heidelberg."

Dan's first thought was of the Ohio school, but then he realized Bernie meant the German university.

They chatted a while longer, Bernie sipping on a colorless drink in a rocks glass.  So far as Dan could tell, it could be water or vodka.  If it was the latter, Bernie showed no sign that it had affected him.

After sweeping the room with his eyes, Bernie said, "I don't suppose there's any chance of me going home with you, is there?  I'm assuming you're gonna have steamy sex.  Come to think of it, any sex involving you two would have to be steamy.  Interested in a three-way?"

Dan had been thinking about the possibility of sex with Casey all day.  Adding Caldwell to the mix seemed like a great idea.  Especially to his cock.

"You're jumping to conclusions, Caldwell.  You don't know what sort of friendship Cool and I have. Or that we'd be interested in a three-way.  Or if we were that we'd want to do it with you."

That's pretty cold, Dan thought.

"What's got your knickers in a twist, Casey, sweetie?  I thought we had a good time that night we spent together."

"Yeah, so you told everyone on campus.  You're great with a dick in your mouth, but you don't know to keep your yap shut the next day."

Bernie stood up.  "I don't think I told all that many people.  Daniel, it was good to meet you.  Maybe someday you and I can, well, you know, when this grouch isn't around."

Dan felt himself blushing.  "I, um, uh, thanks, Bernie.  Nice to meet you."

After Bernie had moved to another table, Casey said, "Seriously, Dan, you want to keep away from him.  He's a hot bottom.  He can give you a great time in bed.  Or a country field.  Or the back of a truck.  But every guy he sleeps with is a notch on his bedpost, and the next day everything you did and all the relevant statistics will be common knowledge."

"No shit?"

"I kid you not.  A day or two after I slept with him, someone told me about a birthmark on my butt, the length of my dick, and the size of my balls."


"He's gonna go too far one of these days.  Some of the guys he's done that to should get together and make him pay."

"Case, you surprise me.  You always seem so calm.  And I wouldn't have thought of you as being vindictive."

Casey grinned.  "You're right on both counts.  I won't do anything to Caldwell except refuse to have sex with him ever again.  But it wouldn't surprise me if some other members of the gay community found a way to get revenge on him."  He finished the beer in his glass.  "On the other hand, if you are looking for a way to get to be known to the university's gay male population, all you have to do is sleep with our friend over there."

They looked across the room.  Bernie, in an animated discussion, had slipped off one of his expensive loafers and was rubbing with his bare foot the shin of the guy facing him..

Nice foot, Dan thought.  Jesus, Cole, get a grip!  You've never been turned on by feet before.


When they got back to the apartment, each used the bathroom and then they met in the living room.  This was the moment Dan had been anticipating.  He'd been hoping Casey would want to have sex with him, but he didn't know how to broach the topic.  He hadn't had much experience in that department.  In high school he'd fooled around with a couple of his wrestling buddies, but they'd never gone beyond 69ing.  And then he'd been fucked regularly by his trainer, but that had been a mechanical kind of thing.  Frank, who took such good care of Danny physically so far as his conditioning was concerned, seemed to give no thought to Dan's pleasure when they were coupled.  Dan knew that sex could be better than anything he'd experienced so far, and he had hoped his hunky friend might show him the way.

They watched TV for a while, and then Casey got up.

"I'll get some sheets for your bed.  You'll be bringing your own when you come back, but you can use my extra set tonight."

Dan mustered up the courage to say, "You know, Casey, we wouldn't have to use your spare sheets if we slept together."

Casey went to a closet and took out two sheets and a pillowcase, which he dropped onto the bed in Dan's room.

"Come on back to the couch.  We'd better talk about this."

"Oh, it's okay!  I'm sorry I said anything."  Dan knew he was blushing.  "I didn't mean . . .  Let's just forget it, please."

Casey smiled, put his arm around Dan's shoulder, and walked him back to the living room.  

"Sit, please."

Dan sat.  Casey sat with him.

"Look, a part of me would love to get you in bed.  You're sexy, man.  But I feel funny saying that.  Looking at you is like looking at a brother.  I nearly flipped that night when I came to the ring and you were already there.  Our bodies are practically identical.  And Caldwell took us for brothers.  Finding you sexy bothers me, and I'm not sure why."

"Well, if you feel that way. . . ."

"Besides," Casey continued, "I'm not sure it's a good idea for roomies to be fuck buddies.  I like you, man.  I want us to get along together.  But maybe sex would complicate things.  Do you get that?"

"I suppose . . . ."

He grinned.  "Besides, there's this guy I'm kind of interested in, Jesse.  Let's just be good buds and see what happens, okay?"

"Sure, if that's what you want.  Sorry I mentioned it."

"Hey, it had to come up.  And I'm flattered you would like to have sex with me."

"Wanna tell me about Jesse?"

Casey's eyes lit up.  "I had a class with him the first summer term.  He's beautiful.  Used to be a professional model, with pix in GQ and mags like that.  But he's really nice.  Not a bit stuck up or anything because he used to be a big deal."

"How old is he?"

"Pushing 30, I'd guess.  He sure didn't quit because he's lost his looks.  Just said he'd gotten tired of that life and wanted to come to college.  He chose CSU more or less at random."

"That's great.  You really like him, I can tell."

"Yeah, but I think he likes this other guy, a cop."

"Well, I hope it works out for you, roomie."

"Thanks, Cool."

Casey helped Dan put the sheets on his bed, hugged him goodnight, and began turning off the lights in the living room and kitchen.


Dan slept until nearly 10:00 the next morning.  After he had showered, shaved, and dressed, he went to the kitchen, where he found a note from Casey saying he'd gone out to get some breakfast and would be right back.  Meanwhile there was juice in the fridge.

Dan had a glass of O.J.  Then he remembered that Casey had told him there were a washer and dryer in the basement.  So he stripped the sheets off his bed and took them downstairs, where he found the laundry pair.  There were also an iron and ironing board.  He put the sheets in the washer, added detergent, turned it on, and went back upstairs.

Casey soon returned with yogurt, bagels, cream cheese, and a plastic container of mixed fruit.

"Where'd you get this stuff?"


"Makes me feel at home to know there's a Kroger's here."

"Yeah, they're based in Cincinnati, aren't they?"

"Uh huh."

"Well, they're all over this area, but they've never come into northeast Ohio, for some reason.  We don't have them in Cleveland.  Wish we did."

After they'd eaten and brushed their teeth, Dan remembered the laundry.

Telling Casey he'd be right back, he went down to the basement.  The first thing he saw from the foot of the stairs was a nice jeans-clad butt.  Its owner was taking his sheets out of the washer and putting them in the dryer.

"I'm sorry, dude," Dan said.  "I should have gotten back to do that sooner."

The other man straightened up and turned around.  On the skinny side, he was about six feet tall with dark, curly hair, about a two-day growth of beard, and beautiful brown eyes.

"You must be Casey," he said, holding out his hand. His voice was surprisingly deep. Not just deep, but . . . soothing.  "I'm Seth Newman.  I live on the second floor."

"Uh, actually, I'm Casey's roommate.  My name's Dan Cole."

"I've only met Casey once.  He just moved in the other day.  But you guys look a lot alike."

Dan chuckled.  "Yeah, we got that last night at Nellie's."

Seth's eyes narrowed briefly.  "Nellie's huh?"

"Yeah, you got a problem with that?"

"No, Dan.  Not at all."  He paused.  "So how am I going to tell you two apart."

"Easy."  Dan motioned toward his forehead.  "I'm the one with the scar.  Besides, his hair is darker than mine, and he has nice brown eyes like yours.  Mine are blue."

"So I see."

Dan closed the door of the dryer and started it.  Seth began putting things from a plastic laundry basket into the washer.

"I'll be sure to get my stuff before you need the dryer."

Seth grinned.  "You probably won't.  It takes longer to dry things than it does to wash them.  But it's no problem.  My stuff will be all right in the washer.  There's just the three of us living here."

"Great."  Dan turned and walked to the stairs, where he turned.  "Nice to meet you Seth.  Casey's a considerate guy.  We'll try to be good neighbors."

Seth wasn't what Dan would have called handsome, but when he smiled, Dan found him very attractive.

"I'm sure you will, Dan.  See you around."


I forgot to mention at the end of chapter 1 that comments are welcome at

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